Canadian journalists group criticizes RCMP
Response to death threat against Free Press reporter ‘cavalier and indifferent’: CAJ
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/08/2022 (294 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Canadian Association of Journalists wants to know what the RCMP knew about a plot to murder a Free Press journalist and what action the police force took as a result.
Last week, German news organization Zeit Online reported that members of the Base, a neo-Nazi paramilitary group, planned to kill Free Press reporter Ryan Thorpe for exposing one of its Manitoba members, Patrik Mathews, in a series of Free Press articles in 2019.
It was the first time Thorpe learned the specifics of the plot, which was revealed in a December 2019 bail hearing for the Base member Richard Tobin, and was reported last Wednesday by German news outlet Zeit Online.
“We believe Thorpe should have been provided with detailed, reliable information to evaluate and deal with the threat, and he should have been offered actual protection in the face of this information,” the CAJ stated in a release.
“We also would like the police to clarify whether they investigated the plot to kill the reporter, and why no charges were ever brought.”
In the spring of 2019, Thorpe revealed Mathews, a 27-year-old Beausejour resident and Canadian Armed Forces reservist, as being a recruiter for the white supremacist organization.
Mathews fled to the United States and was later arrested and sentenced to nine years for weapons charges and plotting violence.
Court documents uncovered by Montreal-based investigative journalist Zachary Kamel revealed that before Mathews fled, he and other members of the Base conspired to kill Thorpe.
Members of the Base planned to kill him right before they carried out a plan to help Mathews escape to the United States.
When U.S. law enforcement officials later searched Tobin’s computer, they found an image that depicted Thorpe being beheaded.
The murder plot was never carried out because they “got cold feet,” Tobin told the FBI, but members did smuggle Mathews across the border.
In September 2019, the RCMP gave Thorpe a letter stating it was aware of a threat to his life.
The letter warned Thorpe to “be cognizant” of the threat and suggested he install an alarm system in his home. It also recommended he file a formal complaint with the police if he knew anything else.
The Mounties’ letter provided no other information.
The CAJ is criticizing the police force’s response, which it calls “cavalier and indifferent.”
“RCMP did not offer any help to protect the reporter, or give him any indication of how to evaluate the threat. Instead, they put the onus on him,” the CAJ said. “We wonder whether police would have had a different response if a law enforcement officer or politician was being threatened,” the association stated in a press release.”
The incident highlights the threat journalists face from extremist organizations and raises troubling questions about Canadian law enforcement’s response, the CAJ said.
CAJ president Brent Jolly said, “Journalists who investigate neo-Nazis and hate groups do so to protect the public interest and deserve the highest levels of support in their work.
“It’s dangerous to send the message that journalists who tackle difficult or risky subjects will be on their own if people threaten them. All of this comes at a time when journalists across Canada are increasingly facing racist abuse and threats, and the CAJ urges police to take these matters seriously and use the powers already granted to them to prosecute the perpetrators.”
The Free Press reached out to the RCMP for comment on Sunday. The Mounties did not respond by deadline, but indicated they may provide a statement at a later date.